DIY Cloth Wipe Solution

We’ve talked before about my love for lazy and easy recipes. Because, well quite frankly I do not have time for anything more. But I also can’t bring myself to spend unnecessary money, and baby wipes are one of the things that I put in that category. Not only are baby wipes really, really bad for the environment but with a kid using roughly 12,000 wipes in the first two years of life and those wipes costing on average 5.4 cents each…well, it adds up.

Since I have already taken the leap in cloth diapering for my youngest two children, cloth wipes seemed like a logical next step. In fact it’s kind of easier for me than disposable wipes because now the diaper and the wipe can go into the pail together.

At first I just wet each wipe with water, which worked just fine honestly, but something about it didn’t feel right. I guess I just felt like my kids butt needed to be cleaner than water alone could get it, and so to Pinterest I went. Y’all, there are tons of wipe solution recipes out there, but I dabbled with a few and eventually tweaked several together into one that worked best for my babies bottoms.

2 C Distilled Water

2 Tbsp Castile Soap

1 Tbsp Witch Hazel

2 Tbsp Fractionated Coconut Oil

3 Drops Lavender Essential Oil

Mix items together and pour over wipes in container.

 

Side Hustles For The Stay At Home Mom

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Whether your working to get out of debt or not, its always nice to have a little extra money in the bank. But when your a SAHM it can be hard to find the time to go out and get a part time job, and work at home jobs are hard to manage when toddlers are roaming underfoot. So what can you do? Side hustles are the answer. Side hustles, part time income, things to do during nap times and your morning coffee. They can you as little or as much as you want, it just depends on how hard you work it.

Swagbacks

Okay, I’ve never met anyone who got rich on Swagbucks, but it is a fairly easy way to earn pocket change. I tend to try to get a couple surveys under my belt during nap time, and keep the Swagbucks watch app on the background to earn points throughout the day. Again

Ebay

What do you do when shopping is a hobby and you’re on a tight budget? Become best friends with garage and estate sales. Seriously, even just browsing gives me a tingly feeling in my soul. If you keep your eyes open it’s easy to find hidden treasures that you can then flip on eBay and Etsy (depending on how old the item is, vintage is hot!). It’s not instant cash, but patience definitely pays off in this line of work.

Home Childcare Provider

Whether it’s bringing in kids for full time care, the occasional weekend sitter job, or even hosting parents nights out complete with crafts, movies, and snacks (seriously, I’ve seen it done and it was awesome) providing childcare for other families is a way to both bring in a few extra bucks, or even provide you with a full time income.

Just make sure to check with your city and states licensing regulations, the last thing you want is to have a state worker show up at your door and shut you down. If you go the full time provider route, make sure you’re legit. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Etsy

I mentioned Etsy above, but this site is so much more than flipping your garage sale finds. Do you love to knit, sew, or have a knack for designing websites or clipart? Etsy is the place online where creators go to sell their goods, no matter what that might be. Seriously I’ve seen everything from lingerie, to felt toys, to furniture, and cloth pads. They really have everything. Setting up an Etsy store is easy and affordable, just make sure to mind your p’s and q’s. Be realistic with shipping time frames, and don’t underprice your hard work.

Teach English Online

This is the most ‘job like’ side hustle I am posting, because it really is a job. But I have heard such good things about it that I had to add it to my list. Where you a teacher in your life before SAHM’ing? If so, VIPKID is a place for you. What it is is an online platform to teach English online to kids in China. The hours are usually early mornings and late at night in US time zones, so you will be working when your children are asleep. And with pay between 7.00-9.00 per 30 minute class (or between 14.00-18.00 per hour) it’s a side hustle that can really help you see financial results.

Start A Blog

Do you love to write, have a subject you are passionate about, and know even a teeny-tiny bit about computers? Then blogging could be a great side income for you, heck with a little work and dedication it can even turn into a full time income or more! Blogs can be started for free through blogspot and wordpress, but I chose to go the not-free but still affordable route of purchasing a domain name and having and going through a webhost (I use GreenGeeks because they both affordable and are 300% powered by renewable energy and they have plans starting at only 2.95 a month currently). I purchase a premade blog template from Etsy for 13.00, and I splurged on a course from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing for 197.00 because I knew absolutely nothing on the subject. But really what business can you start for as low as 250.00, be able to set your own hours, and have no limit on the amount of income you can make? For me it was worth every penny.

Side hustles are not limited to stay at home moms. Moms who work part time or even full time can do these things to earn a little money on the side. It just takes a lot of creativity, and a little bit of time.

Do you have another side hustle idea? What do you do to bring in income while staying at home with your kids, or even work

Minimal Waste School Supplies Must Haves

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With fall just around the corner and school years getting under way it is easy to get into a frenzy of school supplies shopping and allow thoughts of minimal waste to be put on the back burner. But going minimal waste while back to school is a lot easier than you think! Here are a few items I found that will both help our planet, and help your little scholar fill their brain.

Pencils do not have to be made with metal ends and eraser tips. These Sprout pencils, for example, can be completely zero waste and actually turn into plants when you are done using them. Of course you will still need an eraser, no one is perfect. Go for a latex free eraser to help minimize it’s impact on your planet while also keeping your pages clean.

 

Highlighters are important for taking notes, but they don’t have to be incased in plastic. Pencil highlighters are an actual thing, and won’t bleed through your paper.

Art supplies are always tricky. You can buy colored pencils made out of reforested wood, and I am dying to try out these earth paints with the littles this fall. But for crayons I will almost always go with Crayola (come on, you know they are the best and they are at least non-toxic, we cut down on waste by melting them down to reuse) and I have not yet found a plastic free marker set, but crayola has an awesome program where you can recycle markers made by them and others. Maybe you could get your child’s teacher involved to collect all the used up markers throughout the year to send to be recycled!

For older kids I am in love with these Decomposition Books, made from 100% recycled paper and chlorine free. To keep it all together I don’t think anything would last longer than an aluminum binder, but you could also choose a ReBinder made from recycled chip board. The rings even easily unscrew for easy recycling.

To carry lunch for your hungry scholars the PlanetBox is a popular option, but honestly it’s not in my budget. I am eyeing this stainless steel LunchBots box for Addi’s lunch on co-op days this year. It’s three compartments keep food separate, and it’s small enough to fit in her lunch bag easily. I’m also planning to grab a few reusable sandwich bags to hold treats and snacks for recess time.

And last, but certainly not least, no school supplies list is complete without something to carry it all in. While I have yet to find a 100% waste free backpack, I feel like JanSport is a good second option. They’re lifetime warranty on packs, bags, and luggage make them a safer bet for the environment and your budget.

Back to school can be stressful, especially as a parent. But it does not have to pack a huge punch to the planet. With a little planning and extra thought, you can easily have an earth friendly school year this year.

Oh and speaking of planning, don’t forget to check out this list to see if your state participates in tax free weekend or even a tax free week for additional school supplies savings this school year, because keeping our budget in mind is important too!

Updates Galore! June Debt and No Spend Month

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So I have good news, and I have bad news. Which would you like first? I’ve always been a bad news first kind of girl myself, it’s kind of liking ripping off a bandaid and the good news ends up being like a soothing balm. How’s that for poetic?

So here it goes, the bad news is our no spend month hasn’t really been no spend. Although I will say we have spent a lot less than we normally would. I had thought we were doing great, and then I balanced the checkbook last week. I noticed that the little trips I sent my husband on to the store were adding up a bit more than I had budgeted for. That’s right, he was great at talking the talk all month about our no spending pact, but when it came to the things he loved at the checkout he apparently couldn’t help himself.  To the tune of about 50.00.

That honestly wouldn’t have been so bad, but I have this little chip on my shoulder called the unfair monster. As in, it’s really unfair you got to spend extra and keep it from me, I didn’t spend any extra this month! Yea, I’m really mature. So out I went to do a couponing run I had been talking myself out of (in my defense I got both toilet paper and laundry detergent at my stock-up price) and a swimsuit top for my no longer nursing assets.

But hey, we spent a little over a hundred non-budgeted money this month, and actually came in under budget on things like gas. So while our no spend month did not go as planned, it still wasn’t all that bad.

And now for the good. Our debt update. We didn’t go crazy and cut our debt a ton this month, but we did cut it some! As of today our total is 146367.97. That’s 1267.53 less than it was last month!

In all fairness this is just from us paying minimums-let that sink in. And starting next month three of our cards will start to accrue interest (they’ve been interest free for the last year) so our debt will not go down nearly as much.

But tonight we go to week three of Dave Ramsey’s FPU. We’ve created our first budget and are talking about both big and small things we can cut. We’re chugging along, but we’re not using our cards anymore and are committed to tackling this mess we’re in. We can do it!

Our Favorite Tomato Sauce Recipe (And Water Bath Canning)

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I’ve always thought of us as having a pretty healthy diet. We rarely eat out, eat as much organic as possible, and make a lot of things from scratch. But back in March Austen’s doctors put her on a new Whole Foods diet, and it’s taken our eating habits to a whole new level.

Austen is very rarely allowed to have any preservatives or processed foods, in fact we try to limit ‘cheating’ to once a week. I feel this has greatly helped with her seizure control, but man is it tough! I can 100% say that before March I never would have considered making things like mayonnaise and ranch dressing from scratch. But I’m determined to give my family the same foods they loved before, but in a healthier manner.

And y’all my family cannot live without it’s pizza or spaghetti. It’s just not an option. But most tomato sauces are full of the preservatives that Austen isn’t allowed to have. And the ones that are free of them are way out of our budget.

So here I am, calling up my aunt to figure out just how we made all that tomato sauce from scratch as a kid. And spending two days preparing the two cases of tomatoes I found on sale at Sprouts (because who can beat .50/lb!).

I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of work. But I now have enough tomato sauce for an entire year, and pizza sauce for six months. So I’m considering myself the real winner in this situation.

Tomato Sauce:

You will need:

50lbs Roma Tomatos

3 Tbsp Salt

4 Tbsp Dried Oregano

4 Tbsp Dried Thyme

4 Tbsp Dried Onion Powder

4 Tbsp Dried Garlic Powder

Citric Acid

First, blanch the tomatoes in batches by first putting them into boiling water for one minute, then ice water for an additional minute. Once the tomatoes are all blanched carefully peel and core them (this should be easy once they are blanched). Place cores and peels in a bowl as you go through the tomatoes, these can be thrown into the compost when you are done.

Place tomato pieces into a blender and blend until there are no chunks, then place the tomato puree into a large stock pot. Once all tomatoes are all blended and put into the stock pot place pot on the stove and heat at a medium high heat until boiling.

When the tomatoes reach boiling add the salt, oregano, thyme, onion powder, and garlic powder to the pot and stir thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer until reduced by 1/3.

While the sauce is reducing wash out jars, lids, and rings with hot soap water. If you are going to do waterbath canning put the lids, rings, and jars into a pot of hot water to keep them warm until sauce is ready.

Once sauce is reduced dry off jars and sprinkle citrus acid on the bottom of the jar in the following quantities:

Pint Jars: 1 tsp

Quart Jars: 1/2 tsp

Small Jelly Jars: 1/8 tsp

Place sauce in jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, wipe off the rim, and place on the lid and ring. You can then freeze these jars (if they are freezer safe, and after they have cooled off) or you can  follow the directions below to do water bath canning to keep them good for up to a year.

** Note: You can also add sugar to the jars (in equal amounts to the citric acid) to counteract the acidity that the citric acid can bring. I choose to sprinkle sugar on my sauce after I open it, instead of before canning.

Water Bath Canning:

Water bath canning is my preferred method of canning. I don’t have a ton of freezer space to freeze my sauces (jars take up a large amount of space), and I’m scared to death I’d explode something in a pressure canner.

To water bath can you simply need-

For water bath canning you simply fill a large canning pot half way full of water, with the wire rack already inside, and place lid on the pot to allow water to simmer until jars are ready. Then using the jar lifter place the jars into the pot on the wire rack and fill the pot with more water until the water reaches 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Place lid onto the canning jar again and bring water to a rolling boil.

Once the water reaches a rolling boil start the processing time. For tomato sauce, this time is 40 minutes, but each recipe requires different times, and times go up depending on altitude.

When the time is up use the jar lifter to take the jars out one by one and place them upright on a towel to cool. Leave jars undisturbed for 12 hours to cool.

Before putting jars away test the seal by pressing down on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up and down if it is properly sealed. Put all properly sealed jars away for future use, and unsealed jars can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

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Experiences Over Gifts-Why We Stopped Spending Money On Birthday Presents

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Last year my husband and I made what many people think is a pretty crazy decision. We decided to stop buying our kids birthday presents. For real. They might get one small present on their big day, Austen got a doctors kit, for example, but other than that not much. Not much material at least.

You see we used to go all out for the kids birthdays. Big parties, lots of presents, the works. But all that money was wasted. It was money down the drain and if I’m being perfectly honest my kids weren’t getting a lot out of it. So we decided to change our mindset, we decided to focus on things that could last. You see, those parties were over within an hour, the toys broke within a week. Heck, some of them didn’t even last 24 hours.

These things that we spent so much money on didn’t last. If we were going to be forking out so much, we wanted it to be something that would stand the test of time, tangible or not.

We decided that memories were the thing to focus on.

So we made the choice to shift our perspective, we chose to believe that our children would get more out of experiences than they would out of toys that did not last.

For Addi’s birthday we went to Great Wolf Lodge.

For Atlas’ birthday we took him to see Thomas.

For Austen’s birthday we went to the Denver Children’s Museum.

Each of these things did cost us money, but the joy on our children’s faces, and the memories they talk about months afterward are worth so much more than those toys. We are choosing to give our children something they can take with them into adulthood.

Something that will never leave them.

Free (Or Cheap) Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

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Summer is finally here! No more homework checks, or school lunches, or uniforms. The kids get to have sleep in, have fun, and enjoy some time being kids.

And it took all of three hours for mine to say I’m  bored.

When you’re on a tight budget the idea of keeping your kids entertained throughout the summer can seem pretty daunting. So many things cost so much money. With three kids a single day at an amusement park can easily cost us 200.00 or more…that is definitely not in our budget! But summer fun doesn’t always have to break the bank. Below are some ways you can have fun with the kids this summer, without dishing out a bunch of cash in the process.

Parks and Splash Parks  

They are fun, and they are free! Pack a few snacks and some sunscreen and hit the park for an afternoon of fun. The best part is that the other kids there will keep your little one occupied, so mama can sit down and snag a small break…maybe.

Museums

Although many museums do charge an entrance fee, if you do your homework you an often find once that offer free admissions or search out the few days a year when your local museum offers free or reduced price admission. For example the Smithsonian Institute, Pioneers Museum, Bronx Museum, and Olympic Sculpture park all offer free admission. Museums are a great way to keep your child’s mind engaged and learning this summer, and they usually have air conditioning which is always a plus for me.

Movies in the Park, or in the backyard

Movies in the park is one of our favorite summer activities, we pack a cooler with our favorite snacks and a blanket and load up to go spend a night watching movies under the stars. Every place we have ever lived has offered this activity 100% free. If your community doesn’t offer this activity you can still turn your backyard into your own drive in. You can get projectors fairly inexpensive on Amazon and hang a sheet on an outside wall as a screen.

Invite some friends over for some DIY Jenga, or a water balloon fight using reusable water balloons, and it turn it into a party.

Craft Your Heart Out (DIY sidewalk paint, bubble paint, make a bird feeder)

My kids love any chance they have at making a mess, it’s honestly just a bonus to them if something cute comes out in the process. In the winter time I find myself trying to keep our crafting low key, because I don’t want to spend 3 hours cleaning up a 20  minute craft while my kids destroy the rest of the house. Can you blame me?

But in the summer, the kids can craft outside, and they can make any mess they want as long as the water hose will clean it up! We’ve tried DIY Sidewalk paint, making bird feeders, and adding food coloring to a homemade bubble mixture to create bubble paint. To help with our budget, I generally look for crafts with ingredients we already have, as well as things like thread spools as bubble blowers so we don’t have to spend extra money.

Go for a hike

Whether it’s a state park with long and winding trails, or exploring your town on own two feet, getting out and hiking together is a great way to spend time as a family. It also will wear the kids out, so that’s always a plus.

Stargazing

Any reason to stay up late earns a big thumbs up in my kids books. Lay out a blanket and grab an astronomy book for kids. Make a game out of seeing who can find the most constellations, or count the most stars. My kids love to play ‘connect the dots’ to see what kinds of shapes they can come up with on their own!

Lowe’s and Home Depot Workshops

My grandpa always told me that he was so glad I loved to learn, but to make sure I learned skills as well as books. Lowe’s and Home Depot must feel the same way, and both provide the perfect learning environment for our little ones. Lowe’s offers Build and Grow Clinics every Saturday, while Home Depot offers theres once a month on average from what I’ve seen. The best part is both are completely free, and kids get to keep what they build.

Volunteer

I mentioned that giving back can be a fun activity in my Date Nights post a few weeks ago, but it’s not just for grown ups! There are a lot of areas where kids can get involved in communities too. Like playing with animals at the pound, collecting food for shelters, or helping to organize the inventory at the local food pantry.

Library Fun

Story time, crafts, foreign language classes, cooking classes, and so much more are offered at our local library for kids. And all of it is completely free. As a family we try to go once a week to get new books, and we try to schedule it at a time that an activity is scheduled. This summer our local library has programs teaching kids about music and movement, recycling, and the Rain Forest, and community helpers.

What kinds of things do you plan to do with your kids this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Why Minimal Waste (And Why I Don’t Say Zero Waste)

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So I spoke a little bit about why we are going minimal waste in a video last month, but I left many people confused because minimal waste is not nearly as popular of a phrase as it’s Zero Waste sister. Although I could have left things at that video, I thought it would be best to address why I call my journey a Minimal Waste journey, and what that exactly means for my family.

First off, like I mentioned in the video, going Zero Waste is really not an option for my family. We got through so many syringes, oxygen masks, and medicine bottles that I will literally always have some sort of plastic in my home that is unavoidable. But that is not the only reason why we are Minimal Waste instead of Zero Waste.

Yes, I could go on a mission and get rid of everything disposable in our home other than Austen’s medical supples, and never bring those things back in. I could, but I won’t. And that’s because I do not feel that that is necessarily a healthy way to live my life. I know if I tried to live my life that way I would obsess over it to the point of not focusing on anything else, it’s just the way I am, so I choose not to.

Instead we have set up some ground rules for our home that we try to follow in order to cut down on the waste we create and not bring as many wasteful things into our home.

  • We follow the 5 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and Refuse that I learned about in the book Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.
  • We buy as much as we can without packaging. This includes shampoo, face soap, conditioner, and most food items.
  • We have made guidelines of what types of plastics we are okay with bringing into our home, namely cosmetics cases, milk cartons and milk cartons that I am unable to find in non plastic containers.
  • We do not purchase things in styrofoam, or use disposable plates or cutlery.
  • We got to know our communities recycling guidelines, and make sure anything we do bring in that is plastic falls within those guidelines.
  • We are focused more on lowering our trash output than our recycling output at the moment. Once we get that under control we plan to tackle that as well.
  • As things in our house break or become unusable that are made of plastic, we plan to replace them with sustainable alternatives. For example, when my plastic dish rack broke a few months back we replaced it with a bamboo option.

As time goes by my goal is to lower our output 85-90%. Right now I currently fill up my recycling bin every single week and throw away two trash bags full of trash a week as well. By December I hope to get that down to one load of recycling and one bag of trash every two weeks. Eventually I’d like to get it down to once a month or less.

I’m taking baby steps with my green journey, the same way I am with my debt free journey. And that is okay.